Save Service District Day in Chicago

Posted by Jerry Duchene Saavedra on August 15, 2011

Post by Caitlin Closser, ServeNext Organizer for Chicago:

Chicago’s District Day was a huge success. Though other meetings were scheduled throughout the city, I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting with Senator Mark Kirk’s office. Five of us met with Matt Abbott, the Senator’s Director of Economic and Public Policy. Our representation included the Executive Director of Chicago Cares, the Chicago City Director of Jumpstart, the Civic Engagement Manager of City Year Chicago, and a recent AmeriCorps Alum who served with Jumpstart.

We were all able to approach the topic of national service from different angles, which enabled us to give a well-rounded presentation of its merits. Alums could discuss the transformative experience AmeriCorps had on our personal lives, and how we were dedicated to continued careers in service after our terms ended. As a military veteran, Bridget Altenburg, Executive Director of Chicago Cares, was able to liken national service to military service, a powerful statement.

One main point that our discussion focused on was how AmeriCorps programs provide such valuable job training. Not only are employers fortunate to have such a cost-effective option for sustaining their organizations, but members gain skills that they are able to carry forward into their future careers as well. I mentioned how AmeriCorps provided me an alternative to unemployment when I was laid-off and struggling to find work. We also asked that the Senator vote to continue funding for national service programs in upcoming budget discussions.

Mr. Abbott was very receptive to our stories and dialogue, taking avid notes and thanking us. He said that although the Senator had some difficult decisions to make in the months ahead, they didn’t want to cut programs that were effective, which, he contended, AmeriCorps certainly is. He accepted our literature and assured us that he would share it with their Washington, DC office.

Overall, we were very pleased with the outcome of our meeting. Although it is difficult to change anyone’s mind, we feel that our voices were heard.

After departing from our scheduled meeting with Senator Kirk’s office, we went down a floor to visit the office of Senator Dick Durbin. Durbin is already an avid supporter of national service programs, but we wanted to take the opportunity to thank him for standing up for our cause. Unfortunately, the Senator was not in the office, but we were able to leave literature with a staffer. She assured us that the Senator would have been glad to meet with us if he had been in the office.

All in all, District Day in Chicago re-energized us in the fight to save service. It was a day filled with positive energy, and I feel fortunate to have been able to participate.


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